Romney, Obama court female voters during debate
WASHINGTON – In the debate on Tuesday night, Mitt Romney said that he made every effort to find qualified women to appoint to cabinet positions when he was governor of Massachusetts.
“Well, gosh,’’ he said he told his staff who had an abundance of male applicants, “Can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?’’
“I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’’’ Romney added. “And they brought us whole binders full of women.’’
Romney’s story isn’t entirely accurate.
Those “binders full of women’’ actually came from a coalition called Massachusetts Government Appointments Project, or MassGAP, that had formed in August 2002 to address the shortage of women in high-ranking government positions. They had started assembling groups of applicants, taking several months to reach out to women’s organizations around the state and preparing to present potential hires to whichever candidate won the election.
“We contacted both candidates before the final election,’’ said Liz Levin, who was chairman of MassGAP until 2010. “This was an effort that we put our hearts in. We wanted to make sure that people knew how many good, qualified, terrific ladies there were.’’
Romney agreed to work with the group, Levin said, and he appointed Kerry Healey, the incoming lieutenant governor, to be the liaison to MassGAP. Several weeks after the election, they presented several hundred applicants to Healey, said Levin, who is an Obama supporter but stressed that MassGAP is a bipartisan group.
And yes, there were binders.
“There were actual binders involved,’’ Levin said. “Big binders. They were big. It was before stuff was done, like it is now, electronically.’’
The binders had several tabs, she said, dividing the applicants into different areas of state government, such as education, transportation, or public safety.
Romney did have several women in prominent positions — such as Beth Myers, as chief of staff, or Healey, as lieutenant governor – and he made an effort to hire more women.
Midway through his four-year term, 42 percent of his 33 new appointments were women, according to a study done by the UMass Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy using some of the data collected by MassGAP.
But over the next two years, women made up only 25 percent of the 64 new appointments Romney made. By the end of his term, the number of women in high-ranking positions was slightly lower than it was before Romney took office.